There’s a raging debate among dog owners about when and where and if dogs should be on their leashes. Danny is always on his leash, because as loyal as he is and as many commands as he knows, he is also super fast and high-strung. A squirrel with a chestnut in his mouth or a five-year-old boy running around like a wounded bird both rev Danny up.
So Danny is on leash everywhere, including:
- neighborhood walks
- getting from the front door to the car
- inside the pet store
- inside the bank, where they give him treats
- from the car to the dog park
Danny is off-leash in the following circumstances:
- at the off-leash dog park
- in our fenced-in yard
- inside our house
I know lots of people, good dog owners and stewards of the Earth, who let their dogs off-leash while they hike, even in the city park that says dogs have to be on-leash. Whatever. I’m not a leash Nazi.
But last week, we took a hike in that park. When we got out of the car, we heard someone yelling, but I couldn’t make out the words. It was a two-word phrase repeated over and over; I wondered if the National Guard was training or something. There were no signs saying don’t interrupt, so we went on our merry way along the path.
A quarter mile into the woods, we saw a black shaggy dog crashing through the underbrush in a shallow gully. He was on a harness, but without a leash attached. Now that two-word phrase made sense — it was the dog’s name (Vern?) followed by “Come!” Which Vern was completely uninterested in doing.
Vern seemed friendly enough (luckily), so I kind of used Danny as bait and called Vern up to the path we were on. The dogs briefly sniffed one another, and Vern headed off along the path toward the sound of his master’s voice. “He’s coming your way along the path!” I called. The man continued calling Vern for a minute. Eventually, he stopped. I assume Vern had found his way back to his person.
That is not how I want to spend my hike in the woods. Besides, what if Vern wasn’t friendly to other dogs? What if Danny wasn’t friendly? What if Vern had met deer, coyotes, skunks, or big cats, who are definitely not friendly to anyone, let along a clueless dog?
The dog is happy enough to be out with me in the woods. I don’t think letting Danny off-leash is going to make anything better, and will likely make things worse at some point.